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California Penal Code 594(a) and (594(b)(1): Vandalism

Legal Definition: Every person who maliciously defaces, damages, or destroys any real or personal property that is not his or her own is guilty of vandalism.

For a person to be convicted of a violation of PC 594 the prosecution must prove the following:

  1. You maliciously defaced with graffiti or with other inscribed material/ damaged/destroyed real/ personal property; AND
  2. You did not own the property/owned the property with someone else; AND
  3. The amount of damage caused by the vandalism was $400 or more. (PC 594(b)(1))

What does this mean?

Someone acts maliciously when he or she intentionally does a wrongful act or when he or she acts with the unlawful intent to annoy or injure someone else. You cannot vandalize something you own, so it is necessary for it to be shown that you do not know the item or property that was defaced. However, it is also necessary that the Prosecution show the malicious intent of your actions. What that means, is simply, if you are driving your car and accidentally hit a mailbox of your neighbors; then there is no malicious intent. Now if your neighbor has been stealing your WiFi for years, and you decide he needs to buy himself a new mailbox, since he’s stealing your internet, and then mow down the mailbox; I think you can tell the difference here. Also, Vandalism laws apply to a property that is jointly owned (owned by more than one person). For example, if you vandalize a property you co-own with your husband or wife, you could still be charged and convicted with vandalism.


Whether a charge is a felony or a misdemeanor depends on the alleged damaged. Under PC 594(a), the charge is a misdemeanor only when the damage is less than $400. If convicted, you could be sentenced to one year in County Jail. If you are charged and convicted of PC 594(b)(1). you are being charged with a felony offense because the alleged damage is more than $400. If convicted of a felony charge here, you could be sentenced up to sixteen months, two years, or three years in State Prison. You must serve 50% of that sentence. In addition, you would be required actual restitution to the victims whose property was damaged based on your conduct.

Common Defenses

  1. Statute of Limitations
  2. Insufficient Evidence
  3. Mistake of Fact
  4. Violation of your Rights

A common defense here is the mistake that you did not believe the ownership of the property was not yours. Or, a better example is a friend giving you permission to destroy an item of theirs, and you follow their request. Then, it turns out the item was not actually theirs but belonged to someone else. Thus, you did not intend to deface that person’s property.

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Vandalism cases, as outlined under PC 594, often present opportunities for robust defense strategies and favorable settlements without resorting to jail time. One such avenue is the potential for a Civil Compromise, a solution we can negotiate where repayment to the alleged victim can lead to the dismissal of your criminal charges. Furthermore, some vandalism cases are eligible for Diversion Programs offered by the Court. Given that each court has its unique approach to handling these cases, it’s essential to engage an attorney who possesses a deep understanding of local court dynamics and can effectively steer your case towards a dismissal.

At Inland Empire Criminal Defense, our PC 594 Ontario criminal defense attorney is adept at handling both felony and misdemeanor vandalism cases. With a proven track record of successful outcomes, we are committed to ensuring that your case is resolved in the most favorable manner possible.

Remember, every case deserves a skilled defense strategy, and our team is here to provide just that. For professional legal assistance in vandalism-related charges, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We offer a free initial consultation and are available 24/7 to address any questions or concerns you may have.

Contact Inland Empire Criminal Defense today at 909-281-0465 for expert legal representation. Located in Ontario, CA, we are your reliable partner in navigating through the complexities of vandalism charges under PC 594.

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